Necessary Defenses

Bluebird8311 doesn't own this story

Author:

Jude

Rating:

PG-13

Summary:

The mission to Madagascar 2x04 - 2x05

Spoilers:

Dead Drop

Disclaimer:

JJ, Bad Robot, ABC, and Touchtone own these wonderful characters. I promise to return them when I'm done.

Author's Note:

This fic starts on the plane to Madagascar and will end on the plane ride home. Once again, a multi part fic I've condensed into one.

Written:

21st – 27th October, 2002

Thanks to Cassie for the title help.

Necessary Defenses

Vaughn POV

I have a bad feeling about this mission. I've had it since we met with Kendall and Jack Bristow in the command center shortly before leaving. I can't put my finger on it, but something is going on. I keep going over and over the intel, map, and house location trying to figure out why I feel like this.

I look at Sydney sleeping peacefully next to me on the floor. She has not had an easy few days. The truth is I really don't know what to do for her. Her father has been making this harder for her. And despite our discussion on the subject of her mother, she is still hesitant to open up to me about her. I get the feeling everything she says to me is censored.

I'm trying to be patient with her, but I feel like it's a wedge between us right now. We've come so far since she rescued me in France. Her carefully constructed walls were no longer impenetrable. There were ways in. It wasn't easy, but it wasn't impossible. There have been times she's openly let me past them. But the walls are back up the last few days.

I want to believe it has nothing to do with me. That she's put them back up because of Irina. I watched her struggle the two times she's met with her. She is trying to be professional and strong, but Irina seems to know just how to get to Sydney. And even though Sydney won't admit it, I think it's working.

I am interrupted from my thoughts when I feel a hand on my knee. "Hey," Sydney says quietly. "Shouldn't you be sleeping?"

"I did sleep a little bit." I say hoping she doesn't see through me. It's not an outright lie. I did doze for a few minutes.

"Liar," she says with a smile on her face.

So much for her not seeing through me. "I actually dozed a few minutes, Syd. I am just too wired for this mission. I don't know why."

"Yeah, I have a funny feeling about it too," she says. "Luckily I had the exhaustion factor working for me. Where are we?"

"We left the Philippines about two hours ago. You slept right through landing and refueling. I have sandwiches if you're hungry."

"Maybe later. I think I want to try to sleep some more. Are there any more blankets?" she asks.

"Yeah hold on," I say as I jump up and pull another blanket from the supply crate. "Here you go."

She takes the blanket and replies, "Thanks. I'm still having trouble staying warm since being in the water in Siberia."

I cringe just thinking about it. How close did she come to not coming back? First Siberia and then Moscow.

"Vaughn, you need to get some sleep or at least lie down and rest," she pleads.

"Ok, Syd. I need to go talk to the pilot about a weather update, and I'll be right back." I stand up and head to the cockpit.

When I return not even five minutes later, Sydney is asleep again. I'm tempted to sit and look over plans again, but I don't want to face Sydney's wrath if she wakes up and I'm not at least resting.

So I walk over to the crate and grab another blanket. The mats we are sleeping on are surprisingly comfortable. I lie down facing Sydney, and just enjoy looking at her. She seems so young when she's sleeping. It's hard to imagine that this beautiful, almost fragile looking woman could take down almost anyone.

We continue our way to the island of Madagascar, and I spend my time watching Sydney. The only other thing that has come close to keeping my attention like this is hockey. I think back to the comment she made about us going to a Kings game. I remember being caught off guard. I was never sure if she returned the feelings I had. When she said that, for the first time, I could see a future with Sydney.

I only hope we are able to retrieve the Bible. I have to believe that every victory we have against the Alliance, brings me closer to sitting in that hockey rink with Sydney Bristow.

Sydney POV

I wake up feeling a little better and for the first time since Siberia, I'm actually not cold. As I start to sit up, I notice there is now a second blanket on me. I smile and look over at Vaughn, who thankfully is sleeping.

I know he's worried about me. I don't know what to do to reassure him. I know I've put up walls again. I'm not doing it intentionally, but for now they are necessary defenses. I don't know how to let one person in and keep everyone else out.

I sit up against the back of the plane and pull my knees up to my chest. It's funny how I revert back to this familiar childhood position. I used to sit in my closet and cry after my mother died. I even did it a few times with Danny. I'm not crying today but it's oddly comforting sitting here like this.

It also serves as a great vantage point for my new favorite sport: Vaughn watching. It's not often that I get the opportunity to just sit and watch him. I'm starting to like him coming on missions with me, mostly because if we're not flying commercial, I get a chance to spend time with him.

Lately we've gotten to spend time outside of the warehouse together. At the FBI command center, we can actually sit and just talk. I really like that, being able to talk outside the confines of the warehouse. Not that I don't like the warehouse, but I've come to enjoy walking through the hallways of the command center with him next to me. Looking at him, talking to him and being seen with him.

I'm not foolish. I see how the other women look at him in the command center. I've heard them talking about him in the ladies room. I get a kick out of it actually. Mostly because I'm starting to think of him as mine. Okay, so we're not seeing each other in the traditional way. But it's only because of this messed up life I'm stuck in.

I want to believe that after all of this is over, that he'll be more than just my guardian angel, my ally. Sometimes thoughts of that future are the only things that get me though the day now. I honestly don't know what I'd do without him. I'm starting to depend on him way too much, and that still scares me. Maybe that's why I've closed up a bit. I need to find a happy medium for both of us.

I'm surprised when I look over at Vaughn to find him staring at me.

"Hey," he says quietly. I'm learning how much meaning really goes into those three little letters from him. It's the abbreviation for, 'How are you, everything ok, what can I do?' Vaughnese is a language I'm more than willing to learn.

"Hey. Did you get enough sleep?" I question.

"Yeah, he replies looking at his watch. "A few hours. How about you?"

"I just woke up a few minutes ago," I inform him.

"Are you still cold?" he asks concerned.

"No, actually for the first time since Siberia I'm good. Thank you for the extra blanket," I say blushing.

"You're welcome. You were shivering a bit," he says. He moves to sit up with his back against the plane next to me.

Well, it's now or never I tell to myself.

"Vaughn," I say, struggling to get the courage to talk about things. He must sense this cause he's just patiently waiting. "We never got a chance to talk after Moscow. I mean really talk," I say almost in a whisper.

"I know," he agrees.

"Look Vaughn, I just want you to know that I'm not purposely trying to hide things from you. I'm not," I say almost defensively.

"But you are," he counters. I can hear the frustration in his voice. This is the last thing I wanted to happen.

"I know that, I do, I mean…" God, I'm pathetic at this. Come on Sydney. "I've wanted to talk to you about her. I have. More times than you know. It's just so complicated and it would be even if she hadn't killed your father."

"Why is that?" he asks. I can tell he's desperately trying to understand what I'm doing a terrible job of saying.

"Because this is new for me. This-this sharing. This having someone to confide in; to talk to. Vaughn, before you came into my life I had no one, no one, I could talk to about SD-6. For seven years I was used to dealing with everything alone. Everything." I take a deep breath and pause trying to gather my thoughts.

"I'm listening, Syd. Take your time." I look at him and I think, how could you not love this man?

I take another deep breath and continue. "Then everything happens with Danny. I learn the truth about SD-6, my mother, and Noah." I see him flinch at that name. "It's just been insane, Vaughn. I shut down mostly, but you, you got through somehow. I'm not used to this. I'm not good at it. But you know me. You know the real me, and there is no one else that does. God, I don't even know if this makes any sense," I say frustrated.

Suddenly I feel a hand on my knee and I look up and into his eyes. I don't see confusion there, or frustration. I see understanding.

"Sydney," he sighs, as he squeezes my knee reassuringly. "I know how hard this is for you, I do. I'm not trying to push you into something you can't handle. I'd never do that. Sydney, you have no idea how much respect I have for you. Now this might sound kinda weird, but how proud I am of you. You've handled everything, everything that's happened to you. So much more than anyone deserves to ever have to go through in their life. And you're still here Sydney, you're still here." He lifts my chin up with his fingers and smiles. "I told you once that you were amazing, and I mean that. You are. Not many people have gone through what you have and are still here fighting. They aren't. You need to remember that."

I take a shuddering breath as I desperately try to hold back my threatening tears.

"But most of all I want you to remember that no matter what it is, you can talk to me about anything. Anything," he emphasizes. "Whether it be your mother, your father, Danny, Will, Sloane, the Easter Bunny…" I burst out laughing as he playfully pushes my knees over so I have to catch myself from falling. "Anyone. I'm here to listen. I want to help Sydney, and it's not just my job, like I said in the warehouse. I was angry and frustrated when I said that. I hope you realized that the next time we met."

"Yeah, I did," I say quietly, still trying to holdback the tears. How could I not remember what he said before I left for Moscow?

"I know you're trying to protect yourself. I don't blame you. I don't. But don't push me away Sydney, please. I don't think that's what you want to do is it?" he asks hesitantly. I can see the fear in his eyes that he might be wrong.

"No, that's not what I want." I reach up and put my hand back on top of his and squeeze it reassuringly. "I'm sorry," I murmur as the tears start to fall.

Suddenly his arm is around my shoulder and I'm pulled to his chest. "You have nothing to be sorry for, Sydney," he says, his head resting on top of mine. "Nothing." He tenderly drops a kiss on the top of my head.

I rest safely in his arms, assured that no matter how much I screw up, no matter how many times I try to shut him out, that he understands…he really understands. Yes, I've been through a lot, but right now in his arms, I feel like the luckiest person in the world.

All too soon the alarm sounds that we're landing in Madagascar. He gives me one last squeeze and helps me up. For a moment we just look at each other, me silently thanking him, and him saying your welcome. Words aren't necessary.

And then we're off to the business at hand; our mission. I've started thinking lately that each mission we complete, each little victory we gain, brings me one step closer to sitting in a hockey rink somewhere with Michael Vaughn.

Vaughn POV

We arrive on Madagascar and quickly load up the jeep. Sydney jumps in the driver's seat and I climb in the other side. I was going to argue with her over driving, but I realized this was probably her way of feeling she had some control over what is going on.

I help her navigate and before we know it we're near the house. As Sydney and I approach the house, the hairs on the back of my neck are standing up. The minute I hear Jack Bristow's voice on the comm link my paranoia goes into overdrive. I'm not sure why, but that little inner voice has just woken up and is now screaming at me.

Is Irina setting us up?

As Sydney and I crouch down to look under the house, part of me is hoping beyond hope that we won't find anything. I'm not sure Sydney can take it if there is. When I see the blinking boxes, my fears are confirmed. There are enough explosives to obliterate the house and possibly more. We both just look speechless and still for a moment and then my mind centers on one thing. Sydney.

I turn over and look at Sydney. I can see the shock on her face.

"She lied to me," she whimpers, as I see her face start to crumble. I need to get her out of here. Away from here.

"Sydney come on," I say grabbing her arm and helping her up. "We're pulling back," I report as I lead her away. She's still transfixed on the house.

"If she was counting on my trust, that I would just walk in there and set of the explosives then why did she help us get this far?" she asks now near tears.

"There are enough explosives in there to blow this entire place, operation manual included. Your mother was using us to destroy it for her," I say trying to make her realize we've been set up.

"Secure the perimeter," I start to say, but am greeted with the butt of a gun across my chin knocking me down.

Sark.

I stand up and return to Sydney's side while rubbing my jaw. Sydney looks over at me and I reassure her with my eyes that I'm alright.

I watch Sark's men approach the house waiting for the moment I will pull Sydney down. A moment too soon, and Sark will call the men off.

The minute I hear the door open, I spin around and grab Sydney's arm, pulling her to the ground, sheltering our faces from the blast and flying debris. I hear Sydney move and look over at me. Our eyes meet for a split second reassuring each other we're okay.

I look at the house and turn around. "Where's Sark?"

"They're gone," she replies, still in shock.

For a moment we both just stare at the ruins, and I help Syd up. She reassures her father that we're okay. I can see the utter desolation in her face and the tears threatening. I put my arm around her back and guide her away. She's still staring at the house.

As we make our way back to the jeep it is eerily quiet. The two men who came with us are no where to be found. I ask Kendall what he wants us to do and he tells us just to return. He informs me an army team is already on its way from the base we landed at to clean up and investigate.

I guide Sydney over to the passenger side of the jeep and she climbs in without argument. It scares me to see her like this. I climb in and start the jeep looking over at her. "Sydney," I say hoping to get some kind of response from her.

"Just take me home, Michael. Please just take me home," she pleads still staring off into the distance.

Michael. I have to admit, I'm starting to like her saying that. But the couple times she's used it she's been upset. I long for the time when it won't be that way.

As we drive toward the army base, I can't help but feel defeated. This could have been a huge victory and we've returned with nothing. Nothing but broken and seemingly unattainable dreams.

We drive in companionable silence the couple hours it takes us to get back to the base. Sydney has been silent the entire time. A few times when we were on a straight and steady road I reached over and grabbed her hand and squeezed it. I had to somehow let her know that I was here.

Hell, who am I kidding? It was more for my reassurance. I needed to know she was still with me. I was relieved each time when she squeezed my hand back.

When we reach the base we're immediately taken to the infirmary area. We're both fine, save for the nice bruise forming on my jaw courtesy of Sark.

We clean up and change and I'm heartened by the fact that when I come out, Sydney is waiting for me with an ice pack for my jaw. She brings it up to my face, and I put my hand on top of hers for a moment. We stare into each others eyes, and even though I see so much pain in her eyes, I still see resolve and I'm incredibly relieved.

She removes her hand and turns to grab her bags. She picks up one of mine so I can continue holding the ice pack on my jaw. It's amazing how we communicate without talking. We both seem to understand without needing to verbalize it. Never in my life have I had this connection with someone.

It both awes and frightens me. It frightens me only because, if for some reason, Sydney and I are never able to be together, I know there will never be anyone else for me. How could there be?

We make our way up the stairs of the plane for our flight home. I beg and plead with any God listening to keep us both out of harm's way and to help us find a way somehow to bring down SD-6.

Sydney POV

As we climb up each step of the plane I feel like my feet are getting heavier. If Vaughn weren't right behind me I think I'd just stop. I really feel like giving up right now. I know I won't, but right now I just want to say to hell with it all.

I go through this every time a mission fails. Every time *I* fail. It's the same dance of beating myself up, blaming myself, going back over everything in my mind a hundred times trying to figure out what went wrong. This time it isn't hard to figure out what went wrong. It's pretty simple actually. That's why it hurts so much. I let my emotions cloud my judgment. I was so eager to believe that my mother was trying to help me. I was so willing to believe that she wanted to change.

This is my fault. Vaughn and I could have been killed tonight. Had it not been for my father, I wouldn't even be thinking about this right now. He was right. He was right about her. I was a fool.

Vaughn POV

We put our bags down in the plane and prepare to settle in for the long ride home. Sydney hasn't said a word since she told me to take her home in the jeep. I know she's beating herself up for this right now. I also know she needs to go through this little dance, as she calls it, to come out to the other side again. What scares me is that what if one of these times she's not able to come out on the other side again?

I want to believe that she'd come to me. She has before. She's held true to those words I spoke to her once shortly after we met. I'd told her when she was at her absolute lowest, her most depressed, just remember that you can always…you know….you've got my number.

And she has, she's called me, I've somehow managed to say the right thing and everything would go on until the next time. But what if sometime I can't find the right things to say? Then what?

So as we take out the mats and grab the blankets and pillows, I'm not sure whether to put mine next to hers or give her some space. Luckily she answers that for me as she grabs my mat and puts it down fairly close to hers. She grabs her blanket and pillow and sits down and proceeds to take her shoes off. I offer her the second blanket I took for her and she takes it smiling sweetly. Her eyes are still filled with pain. "Thank you," she whispers.

"Do you need anything else right now?" I ask hopefully.

"No, I just want to go to sleep," she replies, pleading with her eyes to just let her have some time. She curls up on her side facing away from me.

I try not to take that personally. I know she needs time to process everything. So I lie down next to her and gently touch her shoulder and say, "Goodnight, Syd." I can only hope we'll both get some much needed sleep.

I'm about ready to give up on her saying anything back, when I hear her whisper quietly, "Night, Michael." And with that somehow, I know we'll find our way through this. And since I'm both exhausted physically and emotionally, I'm asleep shortly after the plane takes off.

Sydney POV

I wake up after a restless slumber. I look at my watch and it's been about two hours since we took off. So much for sleeping away the trip.

I look over and Vaughn and sigh. I'm not trying to push him away. I'm not. I have to admit when we boarded the plane I wanted to get as far away from him as I could. I did. But I knew that would hurt him, and that's the last thing I want to do.

That's something wonderful about this unconventional relationship we're developing. I'm usually pretty selfish. I'm used to getting my way. I don't think about other people much. Which means I usually end up hurting people unintentionally. With Vaughn, I find myself thinking before I act. I actually weigh how my actions will affect him, and this is new territory for me. I know it's the right thing and when I think about it, I feel like for the first time in my life, that I have something to give to someone.

Danny was always so enamored with me. He thought I was so wonderful. He put up with just about anything I did. My long trips, my moods, my selfishness, and he loved me unconditionally. I've never loved anyone unconditionally.

Vaughn, granted we haven't really gotten to know each other yet, may be the exception. At this point, I don't think there is anything I wouldn't do for that man. Is that unconditional love?

I'm still amazed he even cares for me as much as I think he does. I mean my mother killed his father. I sometimes wonder how he can stomach even being in the same room with me. And it still amazes me that he went to see my mother so I wouldn't have to. He put me first. ME. I'm not sure I deserve him, especially
now.

The reality of what happened in Madagascar is starting to hit me. I'm not stupid enough to think that my mother and I would be close again. I really didn't. I have to admit that some of the things she said and did really got to me. I honestly felt like she was trying to reach out to me. Stupid How could I forget the bullet she put in my shoulder? Stupid How could I forget she let me think she was dead for over 20 years? STUPID

How could she just leave me; leave us like that? And with that thought, the tears start to fall and I know for once there is no way I can fight them and so I cry. I'm trying to be quiet, but the more I try the harder it is to control. Heavy sobs are now escaping my throat and I can feel my body start to shake with them. I don't want to wake Vaughn up, but I soon hear movement from behind me.

"Sydney," he says tenderly. I just cry more. I feel his hand on my arm, rubbing up and down. "Shhhhhh," he whispers trying to comfort me. The floodgates open and I'm hearing sounds from my throat that I hadn't heard since Danny was murdered.

Then suddenly he is behind me and his arms are around me, holding me, his breath on my neck, whispering words of comfort. "It's ok Sydney. It's ok to cry. Shhhhh, I'm here, it's going to be ok." Over and over again as I cry in his arms.

At some point amidst the sobs and tears, I realise that Michael Vaughn is spooned up behind me holding me. I am in Vaughn's arms. He is holding me. Vaughn. Arms. Holding. Me. As that realization slowly sinks in, the sobs start to subside. I grab on to his arm and cradle it in mine.

Exhaustion from crying and the ordeal finally overtakes me. I remember I am in the arms of my angel, my guardian angel. And with those comforting thoughts, I finally drift off into a peaceful sleep safely in his arms.

Vaughn POV

I've decided I must be dreaming. I must be since I'm lying here spooned up next to Sydney holding her in my arms. I have been for about an hour now. She's finally sleeping peacefully.

When I woke up and heard her crying, my heart broke for her. I have to admit, I was unsure what I should do. Part of me thought I should just leave her alone. I figured she needed some time, I wasn't sure I should intrude. That lasted all of about five seconds. There was no way I could lie there and ignore her crying.

I tried to comfort her by rubbing her arm and that only seems to make it worse. Good job Vaughn. So I do the only thing I can do. I scoot up behind her and wrap my arm around her. I whisper words of comfort in her ear. I'm not sure it's helping until she suddenly grabs my arm and cradles it to her chest, holding on for what seems like dear life.

She cried for at least a half hour. I just held her and reassured her that I was here. I promised I wasn't going anywhere. I felt so helpless. I was relived when slowly the sobs subsided. When they got to the point where she was basically just softly crying, I gently pulled my arm away. "I'm just grabbing the blankets Syd," I reassure her as I reach behind me and grab my blanket. I pull mine and hers over both of us.

I brush the hair out of her face as I kiss her cheek and resume holding her. She grabs my arm again. "Shhhh, get some sleep, Syd. I'll be right here. I'll be right here."

It takes another half hour before she's finally asleep. I lie here holding her, and I realize that there is nowhere in the world I'd rather be. Nowhere. I want to stay awake and treasure every moment she's here in my arms. But frankly I'm spent too, and so as I slowly drift off to sleep, I can't help but think that I'm the luckiest guy in the world.

Sydney POV

I wake up with a splitting headache. You know the kind you get after bawling your eyes out. I'm still a bit disoriented, but I soon realise that Michael is still spooned up behind me holding me.

My first rational thought is, Oh my God! Even though I still feel like crap, I haven't slept that well since sleeping in his lap on the way to Barcelona. I realise just how close Vaughn is curled up against me. I could be mistaken, but either the blanket is bunched up very tightly or Michael Vaughn is like every other man in the morning. This of course makes me blush and brings a huge smile to my face.

But this is not every other man. This is Michael Vaughn, my handler, my friend, my hope for my future. I also realise if I don't move right now that I'm going to do something rather rash and I don't think under the current circumstances our lives are in, that it would be a very good idea.

I slowly untangle myself from his embrace trying not to wake him. I'm surprised that I manage, and I carefully cover him back up. I sit against the side of the plane a watch him for a few moments. He looks so tired and I suddenly feel guilty. I wonder how much sleep he got. I'm sure he was busy trying to piece me back together.

I get up and find my bag and grab a water bottle and some ibuprofen for my head. I walk up to the front of the plane to check to see where we are. I am shocked to find out that we've already landed in the Philippines and refueled are on our way back to Los Angeles already. We slept right though it. We only have about two hours until we land in Los Angeles.

I can't believe we slept so long. I mean I really did want to sleep the trip away when we left Madagascar, but I didn't expect to. As I walk by Vaughn again, he is still sleeping. I grab my backpack and go back to the bathroom to freshen up.

I look at my reflection in the mirror and sigh. Puffy red eyes are just not a good look for me. I quickly grab the Visine I can't live without and put a few drops in each eye. I wash my face and put a little cover up on under my eyes. I brush my hair and put some gloss on my lips and I actually look a little better.

I think I'm ready to face the day again.

Vaughn POV

I wake up and I'm more than disappointed not to find Sydney in my arms again. I start to panic thinking I did the wrong thing last night. I look at my watch I'm shocked to see how much time has elapsed. We're probably almost to Los Angeles by now. I sit up wondering where she is and notice her backpack is missing and look back and see the restroom door closed.

I get up and stretch and run my finger through my hair realizing it's probably sticking straight up. I quickly try to fix it, but knowing my hair, it probably looks like it has two devil horns right now.

"I don't think that's helping." I'm startled and turn around and see Sydney returning from the bathroom. "Although that could be an interesting look for you," she teases.

I'm relieved to see that Sydney is showing signs of her old self. "Well sorry, I seem to have forgotten my gel," I toss back. This brings a smile to her face. There's my girl. I think to myself.

She walks back toward me I can see she's a little hesitant. "Feeling better?" I ask hopefully. And with that, her hesitation disappears and she quietly walks up to me and gives me a quick hug and drops a kiss on my cheek.

"Yes, thank you. Now go do something with that hair. It's starting to scare me," she grins.

I laugh and as I make my way back to the bathroom, I can't help but think of the kiss she placed on my cheek. I suddenly feel like one of those crazy teenage fans who gets a kiss on their cheek from their favorite movie star and proclaims, "I'll never wash my cheek again."

Have I got it bad or what? I do wash my face, including that cheek. I'm tempted to shave, but decide to wait. I do manage to tame my hair some.

As I return from the bathroom I see Sydney listening to messages on her cell phone. Her face changes when she listens to one in particular and I can only guess from the expression on her face that it's Jack. She confirms it when she hangs up and tells me she's to meet him at the warehouse when we land. I can tell she's nervous.

"I don't know about you, but I'm starving," I say as I head to the ice chest to see what they have in there for us.

"Yeah, I could go for a sandwich and soda," she says stretching.

I grab us both a soda and a couple of the wrapped sandwiches, and we sit down and enjoy our lunch together. We talk about Francie's new restaurant. She talks about school and Dixon's children. I know she's just trying to be normal. I know how much she craves that lately. So I do just that. I pretend to be the boyfriend sitting on the grass at a picnic with his girlfriend. Oh, come on, I have to pretend to be normal too sometimes.

I'm enraptured at the sound of her voice and the smile that appears as she talks about the people she loves. I can't help but think that despite the world that we are part of, there is nowhere I'd rather be.

If this is all we can have right now, I'm going to enjoy every moment of it. So for the last hour or so of our flight, I do just that. I listen to this bright, beautiful, and amazing woman who is Sydney Bristow, and I thank God that I am somehow a part of her life.

fin